THE mystery of where a cattle sale had been held posed by Joe Gibbs' painting as published in our December 26 issue, has been solved – it wasn't in Scotland at all.

The painting had shown an obvious mountain scene, thought to be a tryst or cattle fair in Scotland, suspected to be near loch Lomond. However, reader and historian, Angus Mackay, of Highland cattle fame, disagreed that the scene was set in Scotland.

"I would question as to whether or not this depicts a Scottish scene. Yes the hills look very much Highland, but that is all that might suggest this is the west of Scotland," he said.

"The cattle are all, without doubt, Shorthorn and the assembled crowd are very much of a lowland type, not a kilt amongst them. To me, this is a depiction of a sale of Shorthorns with an auctioneer in attendance possibly somewhere in the north of England where the breed became established during the latter part of the 18th century.

"They had become establish throughout the more fertile districts of Scotland by the first half of the 19th century but it was some time after that before they found a foot-hold in the west Highlands which suggests to me that this is not, as suggested, Loch Lomond," added Angus.

"The fifth Duke of Argyll 1723-1806 would have been one of the first to try out the Shorthorn breed in the west Highlands. He found that they were not best suited to the harsh climate and somewhat primitive conditions and gave them up to focus on improving the native West Highland breed."

This got Joe thinking and so on a whim he contacted the local history dept at Cumbria County Council and the mystery was solved – even down to the date of the sale!

Mark Brennand, lead officer of the historic environment and commons at Cumbria County Council and of the Cumbria Industrial History Society, helped fill in the missing links.

"The picture probably depicts the sale of John Gelderd’s Shorthorn cattle on October 10, 1851, mentioned in the Carlisle Journal of September 19," he said.

"The hills in the background, probably Black Crag and Helvellyn, have been exaggerated for effect by the artist. The current façade of the hotel, which was at that time Gelderd’s Family Hotel, is longer, but earlier Ordnance Survey mapping shows a separate building, at an angle, to the south which fits with the painting. By 1907, the hotel was known as Hudson’s Patterdale Hotel."